friendship · goals · isolation

The Buddy System

9.20.18.jpegWhile many actions I’m taking are to strengthen the net around moving toward my goals, it’s become clear that plain “accountability” isn’t enough for me in some cases.

Would you believe, even following that blog about the importance of music in my life, that I bought tickets to a concert last Friday and didn’t even attend?  It was the evening after Back to School night, so with the delayed homecoming it was a very short night of sleep and a long day.  But still.  I discovered, as I checked in by phone with my Action Partner (and admitted to her that in just a few hours I “should” be going to a concert), that just buying a seat doesn’t get me to that seat.

As I looked at my list of actions for yesterday, I had 2 competing tasks: “Find Opera Buddy” and… “Call Opera to Sell Back 2nd Ticket.”

Now, I’m not as dense as I look;P so I can extrapolate from last Friday’s experience to know, pretty deeply, that if I sell back my 2nd ticket, I have a much less likely chance of actually making it to the show.  And that’s just sad, because I was so excited to buy this package of tickets and go to the opera.

(I’m not traditionally a huge opera person, but I’ve gotten into a few over the last couple of years, so I bought a small, teacher-discounted set that includes Tosca, which I’ve seen and loved, and It’s a Wonderful Life, which seems like it’ll be a totally cool and unique opera experience.)

So.  I need a buddy.  It’s funny: 2 coworkers and myself bought tickets to see this simulcast of Macbeth last year at a movie theater — one of them had to cancel because of a work commitment and one got violently ill in the middle of the day!… So, you guessed it!  I didn’t go either.

There are plenty of activities for which I don’t require a buddy, but it seems the list of things for which I do are any events requiring I leave my 5-block radius once I’m home from work!

In the age of last-minute flaking, made so much easier because of texting, I find that I am flaking out on myself.

Part of my vision/goals for myself is to form new friendships and to strengthen those I have.  If that’s the case, then it follows that maintaining fidelity the first of those action items (“Find Opera Buddy”) will generate more dividends than going (or not going) alone.

 

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codependence · friendship · surrender

The Heart Cell does not judge the Liver Cell.

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In true ‘Universe’ fashion, my commitment to give up worrying about others has been put to immediate and raging test.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve formed a friendship with a now 91-year old gentleman because of my work on overcoming my debting thinking and behavior.  Together with another person (ostensibly) committed to the same, the three of us meet on a monthly basis to review Dennis’s financial situation and suggest actions for him to take.  Dennis is one of the sweetest people, a trumpet player in a veteran’s band, a coronet player in another band, and perpetually tan from his daily sun-lamp “health” regimen.

Dennis is also totally drowning in debting behavior.  He lives in a cramped, cluttered illegal studio/porch behind his two-story house, where he’s rented 2 units to other people — one of whom recently called the fire inspector and has created a chaos of tasks Dennis “must” complete in order to keep his house.

Over and again during these 2 years, there’s always been something that Dennis must pay for or a crisis he must overcome.  And, diligent compatriot that I am, I attempt to mitigate the advice he’s receiving from the other member of the triad (“pack up everything and move to Bali;” “escape the tax man by moving to Mexico”) and from his own brain (“I have to take down all the paintings in the foyer because my tenant wants me to;” “She wants a gold door, so I have to pay for it”).

When we began, Dennis had $24,000 in savings; now he has less than $5k.

And when he called me yesterday to give me the update on his situation in advance of our monthly meeting, and told me about this freaking gold door situation, I kind of lost my cool.

… well, not kind of.

I became enraged that people are taking advantage of him; that this tenant now feels she can play him for a piggybank because she can “call the fire chief” on him.  And I feel enraged that he’s allowing this, that he’s allowing spiders to spin webs in his head and breed lies.

I feel angry, … and I feel powerless.  And sometimes when I feel those things, particularly when I feel that an injured person is being harmed, I try to control it ALL.  What the tenant does, what Dennis does, what the other member of the triad does… I try to make it all better for Dennis because it’s obviously and clearly not going “well.”

… however, more to the point, it’s merely not going the way I want it.  For all I truly know, this is exactly how it should unfold.  Maybe Dennis is supposed to move into an assisted living program and forfeit his home to these mongers.  …

But whatever it is that he is or is not supposed to be doing, my ire does not help anything.  It makes him defensive, me offensive, and doesn’t help move the needle forward.

I am powerless over his situation, and judging him only serves to make me ill.

I am not his Higher Power.  I can’t read the runes.  I can’t make him change his thinking from these behaviors — and this is a hard fact for me to swallow: I cannot change others’ minds to act in ways I think they should.

And so, also in true Universe form, this morning’s Oprah/Deepak meditation emphasized the following sentence:  I find success without judging others or myself.

I am in a middle place, where I haven’t yet relinquished this habit of judging, caretaking, controlling and saving others, and where I haven’t yet found a replacement way of being.

This is “okay for now,” as my bf says, because I do at least know that wherever is next will have more dignity and humility — for me, and for those I love.

action · authenticity · friendship

All in.

2.5.18 caravaggio Tour_Cheat beter

With daylight still apparent after my hour-long commute home, I dashed into my apartment last week, threw on sneakers, and grabbed my phone.  I was in too much of a state of agitation and pent-up energy to listen to the tree sounds yet, so I opened the audiobook app and continued listening to Better Than Before, the habit-formation book by Gretchen Rubin.

She was talking about the strategy of “Pairing,” wherein we unite 2 things that need to be done (for example, treadmill desk at work).  As I continued stalking over to the park-like cemetery in my neighborhood (where many folks run and walk dogs; I swear, not creepy!), I stopped suddenly struck.

I could unite 2 things I want to do.  

For long, I’ve wanted to read more classical literature.  I am an English major, MFA, and teacher, after all, and an avid (near-penitential) reader.  And like many readers, I have on my shelf “aspirational books”: those that I’d love to have read, but struggle to actually read.  E.g. Moby Dick, Ulysses, The Iliad.

What thunderstruck me on my walk was this: I could listen to the audio versions of these classic books.  Perhaps that would not only help me to “read” them, but also to understand them.  First up?  Anna Karenina.  I have indeed attempted to read the paper and cardboard version of this novel, but have been stymied by the names — who are they talking about again??  The Russians love to use the full “Christian” names, the diminutive names, the LAST names, all interchangeably to the point where I’ve absolutely lost track of who the hell is Tolstoy talking about anyway?!

So, thusly, my brainwave led me to the ebook app where I discovered Maggie Gyllenhaal(!) would read me Anna Karenina.  Downloaded, earbuds in, I began to walk again in the falling light.

And folks, I UNDERSTOOD it!! I listened again on the slog-ride home yesterday, and I could actually recall portions of the plot and (for the most part) retain who was who!

I shared my discovery and attendant elation with a friend on the phone this past weekend.  And she, too, was elated — and suggested we start a book club.

Now, Gretchen Rubin is a book-club lover and, honestly, I thought I would jump at the idea — it has been hard for me to read these books on my own.  But with this new-found habit of listening to dense books rather than reading them (which I do plan to do once I hear it all), I’m not sure that I truly want to meet up and discuss them.  I talk about books all the time.

I recounted this conundrum to my therapist last night, and she asked if I actually wanted to be in a book club. … “Well, not really,” I replied.  “But what I would like is a regular poker night.”

Several years ago, I opened my apartment door to find an Amazon package on my welcome mat.  The package was addressed to me and the packing slip inside was as well.  But without a return address or orderee.  Inside the box was a slim, silver case, within which was a brand-new poker set.  Chips and cards, even dice and a disk with “Dealer” printed on it.  I’ve no idea from where it came, and have held onto it (in aspirational fashion) ever since.

I’ve lugged it to campsites, to winter cabins, but still the deck of cards remains sealed in its plastic sleeve.

“I’d love to have a regular girls’ poker night,” I said to her again.  “To gather and kibbitz; to have fun, because, in the end, it is a game.  But I’ve always been stymied by the fact that my apartment is too small… I’ve wanted a game night for years.”

And so, it seems, I’m going to have to enlist a few friends–maybe even a few new friends–to join me for blind betting, cut decks, and bowls of tortilla chips.

No, I don’t really know how to play — but I will.

 

 

action · art · awe · community · faith · friendship · love · miracle

The Miracle of 12 – 13 – 14

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“I’m getting married on 12/13/14,” I half-joked to my
coworker early this year.
I just love the order, the numbers, the unique fact that
consecutive dates like that won’t happen again until 2103 (1/2/03).
My favorite time of day? 12:34.
Although “5:55” is another favorite, because my brother and I
used to stand in front of the microwave (the only digital clock in the house
then), look at the time and announce, “Five fifty-five!” and then lean over
sideways, our heads upside-down, and announce, “Fifty-five five!” and then stand up straight and do
it again: 5:55!! 55:5!!
I love that kind of order and ease, palindromes, sequences.
THREE POINT ONE FOUR ONE FIVE NINE – I THINK PI IS MIGHTY
FINE!, is one our mother taught to us.
And so, when early this year, I looked at the calendar and
saw that one of these special dates was coming up, I declared to my coworker
that would be my wedding anniversary date.
Now, this was, say June, maybe? No boyfriend. No prospects. It would be a short
engagement! But I figured, What the hell, it’s always good to declare things to
the Universe. Why not?
And 6 months later, yesterday, it hit. December 13th, 2014.
No, I did not get married. Alas.
But I did get something else. An outpouring of love that
rivals the strongest romantic connection:
Yesterday, you all erased my cancer debt. In 36 hours. Less than two
days. Poof! Gone. Done. Finished. Eliminated.
FREE.
Yesterday evening, I became free. Because of the love and
generosity of you, my friends, your friends, and even people I barely know.
One of the donors is a woman I helped at my sales job this
week. A brand new woman I hit it off with, and happened to mention the launch
of the campaign on Friday.
“Send me the link,” she said. And she donated, too.
Over 60 people contributed to the campaign, not to mention
the shares and “likes” and “We’re with you” emails and messages.
In 36 hours. It’s done. Something that has harangued me since I got sick is over. Something I put in every monthly budget and calculate how long it will take, and that I can never move from my apartment with that debt. Something I was shackled to. 
Until yesterday. 
Now, I have to wait for the campaign to officially close in January,
and for the crowdfunding site to take their cut and then send me the donations.
But then, I get to write a check to my landlord. And I get
to say, Yes, it’s time to clean out that janitor room–cum art studio, unstick
the windows, clean out the dried cat poop, put a lock on the door, and hand me a key. 
And then I get to move my art supplies up. Out of my closet.
Out of random drawers.
The half-started art projects, the oil paint, acrylics, and embossing gun, the colored pencils, and easel, and oil pastels, collage magazines, glue
sticks, stamps and stickers, brushes and sketchpads and canvases, exact-o knives and glitter.
All of this. All of this hidden away in my studio apartment
closet. All of this out. Up. Lit. Alive. With me, available to me. Creation
incarnate.
I get to m o v e 
o n.
12 13 14.
I didn’t get married yesterday. But what is a wedding except
a display of love, commitment, hope, cherishment?
On 12/13/14, I absolutely received that. Your love, your
hope, your belief in me.
Wow.
And: Thanks. 

change · friendship · grief · love

Can I get a Witness?

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You want it to be done. You want to stop referencing cancer,
or marking time as “before I got sick,” “when I was sick.” You wanna stop the pang of knowing that “sick” was more than a bad cold. You wanna stop remembering
what it felt like. And you want it to stop being dramatic, and making you feel
dramatic.
You want the, “Oh, you cut your hair” comments to not sting as much, since no, you didn’t cut it, it fell out. You wanna feel neutral
when you see a t.v. show where someone’s diagnosed with it, and stop silently commenting, No that’s not at all what it’s like. You want to stop gagging every time you smell Kaiser hand soap. You want to stop
feeling the fear and the grief and the heartbreak you’d felt when you were
sick.
The feelings you couldn’t really feel then because you had
to just soldier up. When you were told, You could be a poster child for cancer.
When you had to be braver than you wanted because you needed to not scare your
friends.
And, there were the few friends you knew you didn’t have to be
brave with, or braver than you’d felt. There were the few who let you cry the
Ugly Cries, and the one who laid in your narrow hospital bed with you while you
napped, all wiped out from chemo. The one who went to three health food stores
to get the right kind of protein drink, since you couldn’t eat solids. The one
who bought your own bejeweled reusable cup in which she brought you green
shakes, and who packed and unpacked your hospital room with you every single
chemo round, and stayed overnight at home with you the first night after your first
release.
You want to remember the witness, and you want to forget
why you needed one. You want to offer the deepest gratitude and you want to stop feeling
gnawed by the uncertainty of that time.
You want to love the witness, and you want to stop being
reminded of what it was they held you through.
There is no forgetting, there’s only fading. And I don’t
want to forget it really; I just don’t know how to process it all still. Though it seems I am nonetheless.
I was on the phone with my mentor yesterday, talking about this one friend who showed up for me then and how, post-cancer, our relationship hasn’t
been as strong or connected. That somehow it’s almost like cancer, or acute
trauma, was the foundation of our friendship, and now that it’s passed, it
feels like there’s not much more to go on.
I told her how sad I am that we’re not like we were,
but that I don’t know that I can or if I want to be otherwise.
It reminds me of a quote from a movie that will make you
groan. But. In Speed, Sandra Bullock
tells Keanu Reeves that relationships based on intense experiences never work. (She later jokes, they’ll have to base it on sex, then. And that’s not really
an option with my friend, cute as she is!)
So, what do you do? I told my mentor that my friend was a witness
to that hardship, and about my pattern of how difficult it is for me to let go of certain things
because I’m afraid people won’t believe me. That my experience of something
will be called into question, without someone else to verify it. My friend is
my verifier and my witness. Without a current relationship, who will remember?
Without the reminder, who will believe me?
So, it’s about more than her, isn’t it? It’s about more than
needing her continued friendship as a point of reference of truth in my life.
It’s about my own ability to hold truth and facts for myself without outside
validation.
And that, is a lifetime process.
But it brought up a lot of grief yesterday on the phone (which is why there was no daily blog). The
star-pupil cancer patient. Who wore bright colored socks and leopard print
chemo caps. Who had her own stash of organic herbal teas and would walk into
the hall to fill her own ceramic mug from home. The star cancer patient who
worked so hard not to be one, now processing what it actually felt like
underneath all that “Chin Up” posturing that was half-posturing, half-I’m
totally awesome, and cancer can fuck itself.
But the friendship has suffered since I’ve been healthy. And
I don’t know how or what to do on that. I think releasing the attachment of my
friend as witness, of needing a witness
is a good place to start.
I don’t want to remember and I don’t want to forget. And
until I find a place of peace with “what went down,” that division will always
cause me unrest. 

career · community · death · friendship · fulfillment · life · love

Blood Brothers

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Yesterday morning I had coffee with a cancer friend, for
lack of a better term.
He’s someone who reached out to me when I returned to work last Spring,
who was 15 years out from his own similar cancer diagnosis, and said if I ever
wanted to talk, he was available.
Since then, we’ve had coffee about once every 6 months or
so, and we get to talk about walking back into a life that sort of looks the
same on the outside, but has completely changed. We exchange the requisite,
“Everything’s okay with your health?” question early in the conversation so we
can continue on.
We speak mostly about work and fulfillment.
At the time we first met up, he was in a transition of his
own, and now, about 18 months later, is again. And so we spoke about
meaningfulness, about intention, about the often tipped balance between the
checkbook and joy.
I love talking with him. Because he is my cancer friend. Because, it’s different than the
first coffee date I had even earlier yesterday morning (a Jewish holiday and
therefore a day off work), when I met with the home stager about potentially
working and apprenticing with her.
With her, I only said things like, I’m just looking for a
change and to instill more creativity into my every day life, to engage more of
my heart in my work. With him, the whole conversation is built on the
understanding of why that’s so. It’s not
just because I’m a flighty 30something; It’s because I’m a fighting 30something
(if you will).
I left the first coffee date with the home stager feeling
mildly despairing and depressed. And I left the conversation with my cancer
friend feeling uplifted, supported, and understood.
I know what he’s talking about when he says how it wrecks
him that he has been so wrapped up in work again that he hasn’t had time for
his outdoor hobbies. He knows what I’m talking about when I say that we have
the privilege and curse of not being able to run on the hamster wheel of life
without questioning what we’re doing.
I never wanted a cancer friend. I never wanted to be part of
a cancer support group, and tried a few times without going back. Therapy isn’t
the same thing either, though that helped. But talking with someone who also
had their next breath marched up to the guillotine… it’s different.
It’s not “all cancer all the time.” Our conversation wasn’t even about
grief or anger. It was barely about cancer at all, except that of course it
was. It is the reason we met, became friends, and can share with one another
on a different level what our life paths are looking like and what we want them
to look like and the struggle between just going along as planned and taking
the time to question it all.
I imagine in some ways, it’s like war veterans’ ability to
have an instant understanding of one another: You’ve both seen life and death;
you’ve both fought bravely and been terrified; you’ve both come back to
civilian life and are attempting to make sense of it all, while still paying
your cable bill and buying groceries alongside every other citizen.
But you also know that, conscious or not, you both make
every decision in reaction to and on top of your experience at war. You can’t
not. It’s part of your DNA, now. You’re blood brothers.
I never knew I needed a cancer friend. And I sit here
writing with tears of gratitude that I have one. 

abundance · career · change · community · courage · friendship · hope · love · scarcity · work

Yes, We Can.

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  • emailed
    landlord to ask to use 4th floor abandoned room as art room
  • emailed
    vocal coach to inquire about lounge singing, how to start
  • emailed
    friend to ask about going up in a small engine plane again. (flew one myself this year, and as always predicted, loved it. eventual vision of napa valley tour pilot.)
  • have interview on monday for two teaching positions with a jewish
    organization
  • have interview set up for another teaching gig
  • have modeling/portraiture session set for next weekend
  • replied
    yes to get minimum wage to usher at a Cake concert in two weeks
  • will
    be reading tarot cards at good friend’s Halloween party on donation basis
  • called friend’s mom who’s a professional home stager about being her assistant
  • have
    coffee info interviews set up with a few high-ballers in the community
  • have
    action items from previous info interviews to follow up on
  • emailed
    work-out studio to inquire about becoming an instructor and was told it’s
    possible (with a lot of work)
  • have a
    solid lead on fine dining waitress work if comes to that
  • registered as a model with a “real person” modeling agency
  • updated
    my profile on modelmayhem website
  • got
    exact amount of pto i’ll be paid out when I leave my job at end of month
  • inquired about health insurance exchange
  • got
    flu shot and all blood tests up to date (all negative – which is
    positive!)
  • made
    appointment for teeth cleaning
  • ordered
    new shipment of contact lenses before these fall apart in my eyeballs
  • replied
    to private tutoring gig from tutoring website I’m registered with (which…
    i’d completely forgotten about until I started getting these emails
    two weeks ago… coincidence?)
  • emailed
    yesterday’s blog about t’shuvah to a jewish publication (a little late,
    obviously, but still.)
…to name a few of the actions I’ve taken in support of my work transition!
I am nervous about leaving the safety of my
40houraweekdeskjob. Yes.
But, I am taking a lot of action. Even as I drag my
feet in some places, and have certainly
been watching more Netflix than is good for any one person.
But I have a phone call with a mentor today and we’ll talk
about smallness and scarcity and healing and changing. We’ll talk about, “Do not
go back to sleep.” We’ll talk about the beguiling and insincere safety of being
quiet and small. We’ll talk about the pain and bravery of stepping out of the cage
and the tenacity and audacity it takes to stay out of it.
It’s not that I haven’t taken or thought to take any of the
above actions before. It’s not my first time at this rodeo. But I just feel
different. To quote Elisabeth Gilbert quoting a Balinese healer: “Even in my
underpants, I feel different.”
But I also know my habit and pattern of swift work followed
by years of inaction. I know what it’s like for me to engage in a flurry of
activity and then allow it to languish by my lack of follow-up. I know what
it’s like to abandon myself.
Which is why I’m telling everyone and their mother
(literally) about my impending transition.
I cannot do this alone. I am a creature of habit, and I need
you to be like my wagon train – I need you to lead me away from the ruts. If I
let you know I’m on this path, you can help me stay on it. If I let you know
it’s terribly painful for me to work toward something new, you can hold my hand
and tell me you believe in me.
I know the source of all this change must come from within –
I know it’s up to my own inner work to be the foundation for a new life. But I
also believe in you, who believes in me, and we cycle one another into our best
selves and our best lives.
Yes, I am the one who needs to actually look up that
professional development course. And I’m the one who needs to continue
looking at alternative work websites – and actually reply – but without you to
cheer me on, without you to help me hold the lantern of faith, this change wouldn’t work.
That’s what feels so different this time – I feel supported
internally and externally in a way these transitions have never felt. I feel
optimistic and hopeful, giddy and aware.
Yes, the future is uncertain. But one action at a time, with
your help and your heart, I am clarifying the vision of a
future (and present) me who is freer than I’ve ever allowed myself to be.